Backgrounder: Simplified acquisition

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What is simplified acquisition?

Simplified acquisition is a contracting method which seeks to reduce the amount of work the government must undertake to evaluate an offer. When choosing a vendor in a simplified acquisition procurement, agencies need not bother with formal evaluation plans, establishing a competitive range, conducting discussions or scoring offers. Also, a contracting officer, not necessarily a source selection team, can choose the contract winner. Other contracting methods include sealed bidding and negotiated procurement.

What is the simplified acquisition threshold?

Because source selection is less arduous  under simplified acquisition, the dollar value of contracts allowable under simplified acquisition theoretically is capped at $150,000. But, under a pilot program that the government keeps extending incrementally (it's been in place since at least 1997), simplified acquisition procedures can be used in procurements worth up to $6.5 million, provided that a contracting officer "reasonably expects," based on market research, that offers will include only commercial items not worth more than that.

What's the difference between the simplified acquisition and simplified acquisition procedure?

The distinction between procurements made through simplified acquisition procedure versus procurements under the threshold mainly matters because procurements above the threshold done with the procedure might be subject to scrutiny that acquisitions made under the threshold aren't. For example, contracting officers must check a database called the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System for any procurement worth more than the threshold, but not for procurements worth less.

Agencies also must conduct market research before releasing a solicitation for anything worth more than the simplified acquisition threshold.

Contracting officers must also require companies submitting a response to a request for quote under simplified acquisition procedures to certify that their prices are independently determined.

Are responses to a request for quotation made under simplified acquisition procedures binding?

Nope. Unlike responses to a request for proposal, quotes are purely informational. Transactions made under simplified acquisition procedures (above and below the threshold) get legally binding only when the companies accept an offer the government makes based on a quote. Companies can only accept or reject federal offers.

That means that should a company submit a quote but claim that it's a limited time discount, there's no reason for a contracting officer to behave as if the quote is actually time-limited; if the government offers to buy at the quoted price even after the supposed expiration of the price, companies are in a position to only accept or reject the offer.

Unless a RFQ specifically prohibits it, companies can also freely update their quotes even after the due date for receipt of quotes because the original quote wasn't legally binding.

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Backgrounder: Super Congress

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